Upington is the most convenient gateway, was its linked by daily flights from both Johannesburg and Cape Town.
Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park is a further 3-hours north by road, with accommodation in simple air-conditioned self-catering rest camps such as Twee Rivieren, Nossob and Mata Mata. There are a few smaller, tented camps but these require booking up to a year in advance, and one luxury Bushman-owned camp. A top-end luxury fly-in safari is also available at Tswalu Kalahari Reserve, which is in a class of its own.
Wildlife viewing centres on the dry river beds, searching for the enormous black-maned Kalahari lion, the region’s most famous inhabitant. The Kalahari is also renowned for the magnificent oryx with its long sharp horns, cute meerkat that emerge from their burrow at sunrise, prancing springbok, prickly porcupine, spotted hyena, black-backed jackal, Cape fox, African wild cat and aggressive honey badger.
You will see large herds of antelope such as eland and blue wildebeest and some of Africa’s most unusual animals here, including many of the big cats (lion, cheetah and leopard) which are more easily seen in these wide open landscapes, although the sparse vegetation does not support elephant, rhino or buffalo.
Birdlife is also surprisingly prolific in the region and a highlight of many Kalahari safaris, with over 260 recorded species, including 20 different raptors. In this land of far horizons, you can marvel at the gigantic nests of the sociable weaver birds set high in camel thorn trees and stop to examine the amazing succulent desert plants which have adapted to survive in such harsh conditions.
The granite Augrabies Falls (meaning 'Place of Great Noise') are well worth including on a Kalahari safari itinerary, with accommodation in simple but comfortable air-conditioned chalets. Here the thundering Orange River dramatically crashes over the rim of a granite canyon, plunging 82 metres into the gorge below forming South Africa’s largest waterfall and the sixth largest in the world. Activities here include a sunset cruise, canoeing in the gentler rapids above the falls, abseiling down the cliffs and white water rafting in the turbulent gorge below.
Namaqualand is also within easy reach. From mid-August to mid-September each year, this landscape bursts into a spectacularly vivid display of wildflowers as far as the eye can see, although the exact timing depends on the rains.